School in Victorian Scotland

Victorian schools are known for their harsh discipline. Find out how you would have learned in the 'schoolroom'.

Children in Victorian times

  • At the start of the Victorian era, most children worked long days to support their families.

  • School was not free and only richer families could send their children to school.

  • Some rich children would be taught at home by a governess.

  • With no school to go to, many children hung around the streets. Some ended up in jail for begging or causing trouble.

  • 'Ragged' Schools were set up in 1844 for children who were in extreme poverty. These schools offered them free lessons and a meal every day.

  • In 1872 the Education (Scotland) Act made it the law that all children aged 5 to 13 years old had to go to school.

At school

  • The Scots word for a male teacher was dominie. A dominie taught older children and boys. Female teachers were called mistresses. They taught younger children and girls.

  • A classroom was called a 'schoolroom'. Desks were bolted to the floor in rows facing the front.

  • High windows stopped pupils looking outside. There were rarely any posters or decoration on the walls.

  • There was no electric lighting. There were gas lamps instead. These made the rooms gloomy and stuffy.

  • Classes were overcrowded, sometimes with over 100 pupils listening to the teacher and copying what was written on the blackboard.

  • Pupils wrote with chalk on a slate tablet. These were cheaper than paper and could be reused.

Learning your lessons

  • The most important lessons were in reading, writing, and arithmetic (maths) know as the 'three Rs' .

  • Lessons were taught by reading and copying sentences down from the teacher's blackboard, or chanting things till they were perfect.

  • There was no group work or chance to ask questions.

  • PE lessons took place in the playground and were called drill.

  • After lunch the boys were taught woodworking and other skills. Girls were taught cooking, and housework skills like washing.

This is how a classroom would have looked with the individual desks arranged in rows facing the front

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Punishment

Victorian schools were very strict. If you did anything wrong you would be punished.

  • If you weren't paying attention you would be made to wear a dunce hat and sit in the corner
  • You might be made to do lines which meant writing the same sentence over and over again without mistakes, sometimes hundreds of times
  • If you were very unlucky you might be caned. This meant being hit on the backs of the legs or on the hands with a wooden cane.